International Family Film Festival: Putting the Family Back Into Film



International Family Film Festival IFFF

18 years ago,  Santa Clarita, saw the first International Family Film Festival when Chris and Suzanne Shoemaker realized that family films were becoming fewer and fewer.  "We were determined to make a change, but we really had no money to put on a festival. So we asked all our friends for a donation and soon we had enough for the first festival. 


IFFF: Patte Dee McKee, program director

This year, and for the past seven years, the festival has grown tremendously and now headquarters are Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles.   From May 1st through the 5th, participants were treated to a wide variety of films - drama, comedy, documentaries, and shorts - 110 in all.  Screenplays were also part of the festival as well.   Entrants came from 31 countries. These included both professional film making students and small groups - some families themselves.


IFFF: The Chinese Block Panel

According to Chris Shoemaker, Executive Director,  the theme for this year is "Ka-Fam! Unleashing the Power of Family" pokes fun at the notion that only the man wears the superhero suit at home.  Stereotypes are less and less easy to defend as some of the featured films showed. 


IFFF :Member of the Chinese Panel

The five day festival offered such inspiring workshops as the 4th China Block-moderated by Robert Caine, which talked about how to get your film made in the 2nd biggest international market; Beneath the tip of the iceberg with Mathius Mack Gertz dealing with the real Hollywood and not just the creative side; Indie Film Distribution with Shauna Shapiro Jackson,  and Indy Film Financing with Peter Davidson.  Also for screenwriters there were panels led by Quendrith Johnson and the Screenwriters Award Showcase and ceremony by Kerry Liethen.   Students, such as Kaleigh Kailanu, who was back for the second year with the second part of her Hollow Chronicles, also had a special day of workshops and stars where Aaron Landon, of Disney's "Crash and Bernstein"  and Claire Winters appeared.


IFFF: young producer/writer Kaleigh Kailanu

Mike O’Sullivan recently reported (Jan. 25th - Voice of America), “China has become the world’s second-largest market for films, after North America, and China’s box office revenues are growing by 30 percent a year.  The country also is expanding its joint ventures in entertainment, and it is changing the way Hollywood does business.”   


IFFF: Ren Huanqi and Yuan Xibo

The rules are changing in China.  Once a closed or semi-closed market allowing only 10 foreign films a year, they have expanded this year to 34 films.  Most of these films are studio blockbusters, but it's now easier than ever to get a film made in China. The Chinese producers welcome product as long as it meets their guidelines -- the story, which is king, must have a cultural aspect that includes China, the main character should be Chinese and at least one third of the scenes must be shot in China.  For more information one should go to the Chinese Film Production Co (CFP) website.  The Chinese will fund movies that they approve of and meet their standards.  Values and family films are much the same as they are here and romantic comedies are also popular. 


Animation is become bigger there and you don't have to go through Dreamworks.  You can go straight to the Chinese producer as Ren Huanqi, Chen Yiping, or Yuan Xibo, without worrying about investors. 


IFFF: Linda Olszewski of Shorts International

 Of course, there are films shot there, funded with foreign monies, that just use the Chinese location to shoot and that is a whole different kind of agreement.


IFFF: Alex Barder of Strategic Film Partners

In the distribution seminar, which featured Alex Barder of Strategic Film Partners, Page Ostrow from the Ostrow Company,  and Linda Olszewski from Shorts International, we found out that there is indeed distribution for shorts from Shorts International and that it's important to consult with your sales agent or distributor before you even start hiring actors.  "Some actors," said Shauna Shapiro Jackson, "are so overused that they have lost their international appeal. Films featuring them are thought to be low budget, even if they are not." 


IFFF: Page Ostrow of Ostrow Company

Bringing a finished film to a distributor can often mean heartache for the filmmaker.  "Too many producers shoot films that even they wouldn't pay money to see," Alex Barder said.  "You have to always keep the consumer and market place in mind."  Other tips were to always have an entertainment attorney go over your contract and try to separate out rights.  Don't cross collateralize your rights or you'll end up losing money.  "If a film fails, the distributor is blamed," says Page Ostrow, "even when it's often the film, itself." 


All too often the filmmaker knows nothing about the business even though the term is show business, with an emphasis on business.  One has to understand the tax credits, says Noel Paytner; one has to have a good team like CPA Eliot Stenzel who understands the tax credits and knows what you can and cannot take off: a good distributor like Bill Gottlieb of Gorilla Pictures who, as a filmmaker himself, understand what the producer needs and a good attorney like Randy Mendelsohn.  Sometimes one can even get monies advances as a result of the tax credits, depending on the state they are shooting in and have to understand what is realistic for their film and what the investor really wants.  We hear, at times. of movies like Paranomal Activity being made for minimal dollars and getting maximum return, but that is not the norm.  "Filming outside of Los Angeles, isn't for everyone. Sometimes it makes more financial sense just to stay put," Noel says.


IFFF: The Film Finance Panel

Festival sponsors included POM drink, Eliot Stenzel, M. M. Gertz, Strategic Film Partners, TCF (Tax Credit Funding),, Media Services, Showbiz Software., ICN, Haziza, Raleigh Studios, Showcase Kids, Salesforce, Creative Handbook, discoverLosAngeles,com, KPFK 90.7FM, Withoutabox, Chrysallis, Kind Healthy Snacks, Icelandic glacial, SmithMicro Software, SaintTome, Final Draft, The Media Barons, Hilton Garden Inn, Munchie the Muchie, L A Wine Fest, and Domino's Pizza


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